Friday, October 1, 2010

Not tonight, tomorrow

I imagined a variety of nightmare scenarios--just mental preparation learned in 40 years as a Giants fan. I saw bloop hits, broken bat triples, productive infield pop-ups, and RBIs on foul balls. I saw six Padre relievers throwing 5-2/3 with 11 K and no walks. I saw a lot of terrible outcomes for the Giants in my mental peregrinations today. Like I said, I'm a Giants fan, I'm battle-scarred. But I must say I did not imagine Matt Cain having his worst start since this stinker in June. I did not imagine three home runs. I did not imagine a meltdown. That pitch to Adrian Gonzalez was terrible. A-Gon can hit great pitches, you can't give him fat ones. Cain knew it was the killer blow, you could see the frustration and disappointment on his face and in his gestures, this from a guy who barely shows emotion between starts in the dugout. It was not a good night for the birthday boy--the baseball gods taunt us once again. Storybook? You wanted storybook? Wellllll, you forgot that nightmares are in storybooks, too!

But storybooks have twists and turns, and unexpected outcomes, don't they? Improbabilities abound in tales of adversity overcome and triumph achieved. And the Giants, down 6-0 in the 5th, looked all but done. The win expectancy chart said the home team had a 2.3% chance after David Eckstein scored on a wild pitch. But then Freddy Sanchez got an RBI hit, Aaron Rowand hit an unlikely 2-run bomb, and Andres Torres pushed a run across with a 20-foot dribbler. Suddenly it was 6-4 and the Giants had life. Clayton Richard--who the Giants should have lit up in the first two innings--was out of the game and the Padre bullpen looked like it might finally crack. Alas, Luke Gregerson was summoned and he silenced the meat of the order in the 7th. In the 8th, a screamer by Mike Fontenot off Mike Adams bounced out of Gonzalez' mitt and we had the tying run come to the plate. All of Giants fandom willed Juan Uribe and Pablo Sandoval to hit game-tying homers, but the best we could do was a two-out hit by Cody Ross. Willie Mac-Man Andres Torres then had to hit against Heath Bell, and his hard grounder was turned into the final out. The Giants went to the 9th still down by two. Freddy Sanchez, though, opened the inning superbly, refusing to swing at Bell's breaking ball and working a walk. Aubrey Huff smoked a liner into the right field corner, raising everyone's hopes, but Will Venable was in the right spot and ran it down easily. FSanchez, catastrophically, was doubled up on the play (what was he thinking?). Buster's grounder ended it.

Matt Cain kept his hand firmly on the tiller in August when the rest of the staff was floundering, and kept it up in September, joining his mates on a historic run of excellence. Alas, the calendar flipped to October and no. 18's magic wore off. Give the Padres credit, they played like a team facing elimination, not like one rolling over for the mercy blow. I thought the Giants would come out hitting, and it sure looked like we'd get some early runs against Richard. That could have been enough to survive the bad start and keep us in the game, especially considering the late scoring chances. The Padres improve to 11-5 against the Giants and move to within one game.

We knew it wasn't going to be easy. We knew--the odds were--that it would be torture. Sure, I thought we'd come out smoking and control the game, but we didn't. What the Giants have to do now is they have to "man up" and play again tomorrow. No loss is so horrible that you can't move past it and get it done the next day. It was a disappointing game, mostly because Cain's performance was such a let down, but also because we had real chances ourselves to rack up 6 or 7 runs. The Giants have relied on the long ball more and more as the season has gone on, but it was the opponents who got the big blasts tonight. Cain finishes the season with 223-1/3 IP, 181 H, 84 R, 22 HR, 61 BB, 177 SO, 1.08 WHIP, 3.14 ERA, 13 W and 11 L. Tonight it was 6 runs, 9 hits and 1 walk in 4-plus, 21 batters, 88 pitches,with a Game Score of 23. Ain't no way around it, it was ugly.

The 2010 season has been miraculous. And it is still going on. If it takes 163 goddamn games, then that's what it takes. I don't believe it will. I believe the Giants got a bruising in the first round, but that's all. The Giants can take it a few licks and they can counter punch. I expect they'll come out tomorrow ready to take the fight to the Padres. Let's hope Barry Zito can keep us in it and the bats can deliver the big hits.



p.s. (a.m. update) I meant to say the Pads were "two" back not one, and that the Giants can "take a few licks" not "take it a few licks." Late night typos, sorry!


Anonymous said...

You still the man, Cain! Life isn't a fairytale so we'll just roll with it. The Giants come as a package and as long as it delivers one win over the next 2 or possibly 3 games, we'll be alright. Still quite stunned, but I'm sure Cain can't wait to face the team of his youth in the NLDS, dominate them, and get the bad taste of this game out of the way.

By the way, I love your title. Simple, and very effective.

Not tonight, tomorrow.


JC Parsons said...

The baseball gods were like evil chimps last night. They took a dump and threw it in my face.

I'm still in shock from Matt's performance...good thing I'm not a player...I could not take the pressure.

Brother Bob said...

Such a bummer for our main man to falter in a big game. I think there was just a vibe the we weren't supposed to win this one. But we ended up giving the crowd plenty to cheer about.
No doubt Zito will be useless today. He inspires less confidence than Livan Hernandez in game 7 of the World Series. We'll just have to score 10 runs. If not, JSanchez will no doubt seal the deal on Sunday. No doubt.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Yeah, it was a shocker. But the true test of a team is how it responds to setbacks and adversity. I was impressed by our fight-back, it bodes well for the rest the series.

Zo said...

OK, this is for everyone who thinks that Barry Zito should be dropped from the rotation, or the playoff rotation. The innertube and the old media have both been full of this opinion. It is simply foolish.

First let's review the past few games:
Sept. 28. Jon Sanchez clearly amped up, walked 2 in the first. He walked 2 in the second (1IBB), and made a wild pitch. Arizona scored. In the third, he allowed a home run. Posey controlled the pace of the game, and he only allowed 1 hit in the next three innings. The Giants came from behind to win. 92 pitches for Sanchez, six innings.

Sept. 29. Tim Lincecum is a genius. He gave up a lead off home run, and later, a walk in the first. He allowed 2 hits in the second, but no runs. He allowed a few hits after that, 114 pitches in seven innings. He was, from the announcers, without his best stuff, but, because he is a genius, figured out how to allow no runs after the first.

Sept. 30. Bumgarner made it through five innings, threw 85 pitches. He gave up 7 hits, walked 1 and hit a guy, but miraculously, only 1 run.

Oct. 1. Cain may not have been nervous, amped up, had too much adrenaline flowing, a case of the yips or reacted to the pressure. He didn't look like it, he looked like ice. But whatever the reason, he pitched poorly. The Giants lost.

Today is Zito's turn. You may or may not believe that pressure situations have anything to do with a baseball player's performance, and that such things are romantic, statistically unquantifiable factors, and therefore do not exist. If you did, you would be in a minority.

This is a comparison of the Giants' rotation playoff experience:
Zito: 7 games, 44 IP, 3.25 era, 4-3
Lincecum: n/a
Sanchez: n/a
Bumgarner: n/a
Cain: n/a

In 2006, Zito beat Johan Santana, each throwing 8 innings. In the ALCS, he lost to Nate Robertson of the Tigers. In 2003, Zito beat Tim Wakefield of the Red Sox and lost to Pedro Martinez. The A's lost to Boston in the 1st round in 5 games.

Zito also won his starts in the 2000 and the 2002 postseason, and lost despite only allowing 1 run in the 2001 postseason.

Each Giant starting pitcher of the previous four has looked nervous, as though the pressure/adrenaline/big stage has had them flustered, whether they have won or lost. Zito has been there, done that. Do you really want to drop the ONE GUY that has performed in these situations from the rotation? Like I said, FOOLISH. I do not know how Zito will pitch today. I do not know whether the Giants offense will be shut down or will be able to score. I do know that keeping dropping Zito from the rotation based on (what, exactly???) brings up the guy who walked four guys and threw a wild pitch in his first two innings in his last start.

Go Barry! We can take this all today, if the team can keep calm and play ball. This Padres team is on the brink of elimination from the post season. It is ours for the taking, if we do not boot it away. Go Giants.

PS. Bob, to which World Series are you referring? 1997?

M.C. O'Connor said...

On any given day, anybody in the big leagues can be Babe Ruth or Cy Young. Or they can be Mario Mendoza or Mark Calvert (remember him?).

Such are the vagaries of athletic performance. Like mutual funds, "Past performance is not a guarantee of future returns." Zito is certainly not the pitcher he once was, but he is a certainly a major-leaguer, and certainly capable of winning major league games, no matter how important or unimportant they may be.

Take a look at the career of someone like Andy Benes, for example (a good comp for Zito according to B-R). Ups, downs, great, lousy, and everything in between. That's why they play, isn't it? Stats and game logs and whatnot can't predict the outcomes--you never know who is going to step up and deliver the big hit, the big strikeout, the big play.


Greg Wurz said...


Livan Hernandez started and lost game 7 of the 2002 World Series. It was the same season in which he lost 16 games so that is why nobody was confident in him starting game 7. Turns out the fans fears were founded in reason after all.

M.C. O'Connor said...

I think Zo's point was that Livan was considered a "big game clutch hero" his whole career (due to 1997 post-season performances) until 2002.

Believe me, everyone around here knows exactly what happened in 2002. We'll never forget that season and, especially, post-season.

Zo said...

Well, Zito's out of the game. I hope everyone is happy. I blame all the negativity.

ps. I think Livan was also the 1997 World Series MVP.

Brother Bob said...

Yeah, it's my fault Zito is awful. Don't tell me what he did in another league five years ago. It's precisely because he used to be good that his current awfulness is so infuriating. The same went for Livan in '02.
At this point, giving a start to Zito is equivalent to forfeiting the game.